Despite the sheer abundance of technology used in care facilities such as medical computers, AI, surgical robots, and more, healthcare is a very personal, social discipline. After all, doctors and nurses are often working with patients at their lowest and in the most need of a human touch. Many of these providers join the profession first and foremost for the opportunity to help and heal people. A survey by CompHealth confirms that fact by showing a direct correlation between physician happiness and quality of relationships between physicians and patients.

Unfortunately, providers have incredibly busy schedules and aren’t on hand to meet with patients as often as both parties would like. Patients can easily turn to the internet for answers, but that lacks the personal approach that’s often needed when dealing with a sensitive topic like a patient’s health. 

That’s where healthcare chatbot use cases can come into the limelight, blurring the line between personal and technical support.    

What is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is a program or assistant capable of simulating conversation with humans through text. It’s likely you’ve already noticed a few chatbots yourself just by browsing the internet! If you’ve ever seen a sudden chat box appear on a product page welcoming you to the site and asking you if you have questions, that’s a chatbot. 

Like the name implies, chatbots are more than automated messages, they’re intended to feel more like a human and engage customers, users, and patients more personally. Aside from engagement, healthcare chatbots also process and answer several requests and inquiries simultaneously, freeing up staff for issues that actually require more hands-on attention.

Chatbots also come in two variants, each with their own inherent pros and cons.   

Simple Chatbots

Simple chatbots are built to work based on pre-programmed keywords. When a user interacts with the chatbot and mentions one of those keywords, the bot will spit out a pre-designated answer it was programmed to give in response to reading that keyword. If a keyword isn’t mentioned, the chatbot can’t respond, often replying with a message along the lines of “Sorry, I didn’t understand that”. Therein lies an inherent issue with simple chatbots. 

Simple chatbots are very easy to implement because of their pre-formulated responses, but are very limited in the kinds of responses and information they’re able to give.  

Smart Chatbots

Smart chatbots are designed to use artificial intelligence to craft their responses. Using AI, smart chatbots are able to actively learn and craft responses based on previous conversations. Because of this, they can provide much more sophisticated, nuanced answers to human users. In most cases, all interactions with users on chats with a smart chatbot are saved and processed, further training the AI and adding to its ability to answer questions. 

Unfortunately, because human speech is so varied, there’s plenty of opportunity for smart chatbots to misunderstand users and provide poor or non-applicable answers. These variants of a chatbot need to be meticulously trained, meaning users have to deal with poor answers until the chatbot has spoken with enough people and been trained enough to handle more complex inquiries. 

Unlike simple chatbots, these chatbots are harder to implement, but, once they’ve been adequately trained, provide a much more effective service.

Healthcare Chatbot Use Cases

1. Patient Education

Doctors are truly inexhaustible wells of knowledge when it comes to patient conditions and illness. Unfortunately, they aren’t always available to answer questions due to their heavy workload. This can be frustrating for a patient who needs both technical and emotional support dealing with their affliction. Fortunately, this is where chatbots have been deployed to deliver the personal touch a google search wouldn’t be able to deliver. 

CancerChatbot by Csource, for example, is an automated chatbot designed to help cancer patients traverse the most stressful experience of their lives.The chat tool responds to patient inquiries in a human way by pulling into it its expansive database of resources and studies and answering questions with empathy and tact. The chatbot is even designed to link out to resources and support groups it feels may help the patient or even the patient’s family in need of advice on how to talk about the subject.

Where a google search may have relayed the same information, a chatbot such as Csource’s delivers that information in a more empathetic way, emulating conversation between two people which can help a patient feel more heard and personally supported. 

2. Clinician Assistants

The same sort of information retrieving chatbot system has been used by clinicians as well.

Certain chatbots, such as SafedrugBot, function as a kind of assistant for physicians in need of information on a specific drug. Using these types of chatbots, clinicians can simply type commands into their device such as “information on drugs” to receive information on active ingredients within a drug or even to find alternatives to the drug under question.

While not as personal as the previous example, healthcare chatbot use cases such as these fill the role of an assistant who may not be on hand due to other patients or scheduling conflicts. Furthermore, a lot of the tedious legwork that typically would have to be done in order to look up a drug and analyze how it would react to a certain patient is taken off a doctor’s plate, giving them bandwidth for more personal engagement with their patients. 

3. Data Gathering

Healthcare chatbots are hardly localized to just healthcare facilities. There are even breeds of healthcare chatbots that gather patient data, such as vitals and symptoms, within a patient’s own home.

Apps like Sensely use a built in digital nurse that speaks to patients through text and speech, guiding them through the process of reading blood pressure, setting appointments, and more. Based on answers patients give to questions asked by the bot, it can either recommend they see a doctor or even call and set an appointment on their behalf, behaving more like an at-home nurse than just a simple health app. 

Use cases such as these illustrate just how powerful smart chatbots in particular can be once they’ve been trained and given enough data to work with. Using a backlog of previous interactions, the app can behave more human and provide the personal touch and empathy many would seek out in a nurse but in a more accessible way.   

Emphasize Empathy When Searching for a Healthcare Chatbot Solution

Physicians deal with very emotional situations and patients. While they may be able to stay accountable for the way they talk to patients, the same attention needs to be placed on how healthcare chatbots interact with those patients as well. The most successful healthcare chatbot use cases all account for accountability when searching for a solution. 

Keeping empathy at the forefront of how patients are treated has seen proven results and increased patient satisfaction across several different hospitals. In fact, a study by GYANT actually found that patient engagement rates rose 82% when patients were reached out to by a chatbot with a more empathetic, understanding tone. In direct contrast, the traditional method of calling patients only received an engagement rate of 55%.

Keeping those findings in mind, try to find healthcare chatbot services you feel address your patients with the level of empathy they need. For more information on tech that can make incorporating healthcare chatbots much more streamlined, contact an expert from Cybernet’s team today.